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‘The spring of hope, the winter of despair’: an unfinished narrative of Mediterranean cities

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Early in 2011, a powerful surge of protest calling for political and social change swept along the North African shoreline. Not for the first time, and almost certainly not for the last, the established rhythms of urban life in the region were to be severely disrupted. The patient work of well-laid plans counted for little as people took to the streets and military governments resisted; overnight, public squares became places of protest and even battlegrounds. Tunis, Tripoli and Alexandria – the three cities that feature in this paper – were by no means the only places to feel the strong winds of change. Moreover, all three of the case studies have long histories and, as with so many other cities around the Mediterranean, turbulence is nothing new. It is hard to think of other parts of the world where cities have so often experienced changing fortunes: at one moment in history nourishing the growth of civilization, at another trapped in a spiral of decline. Located between three continents, in a region of geological as well as geopolitical instability, Mediterranean cities are familiar with bad times as well as good. This paper explores the nature of this volatile process and its impact on urban life and form.

Keywords: Alexandria; Mediterranean; Tripoli; Tunis; urban change; urban development

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Australian Institute of Business,Adelaide, Australia

Publication date: 2012-07-01

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